"The staple of zee Hungarian Diet is dee pork lard."
It was these words, uttered by Hungary's top health and nutrition expert (picture Chris Farley with a beard), that first got my attention. Hot damn! I wanna live there!
But it was the ad that clinched it. "Calling all losers: See the world. Teach English as a second language." OK, maybe I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. All that a native English speaker needs to teach English in Hungary is a pulse and a tongue. The former may be optional.
So here I am two years later in Budapest, the fountain of eternal pork lard. It's everywhere, from sausages that would make Ron Jeremy blush to the delicate little larded pastries nibbled on in the sweet shops by ladies-who-lunch. This is a country where the word "vegetarian" means "just a little pork lard in mine, please." I weatherproofed my bicycle with pork lard and, like all good Hungarians, regularly use it as a sexual lubricant. I'm quite happy in this pork lardiest of paradises.
The English teaching shtick has me worried, though. There are easily a hundred cowboy language schools in Budapest, all of them horny for some ex-pat twit to showcase as their "native speaker" teacher. Mental instability, unreliability, and out and out repulsiveness are no obstacle. If you have English as your mother tongue (and absolutely NO other talent or positive character traits), you're hired.
Ordinarily, this would be of no concern to me. Language schools want to hire incompetents? More power to 'em! However, it's getting so widespread that it's affecting my ability to purchase pork lard products.
Here's why: the nice lady at the corner butcher shop, upon discovering that I speak English, decided to practice her language skills whenever I come in. Now she refuses to speak to me in Hungarian. The problem is, I don't understand a fucking word of her English. Last time I was so baffled that, without even realising it, I ended up walking out of the shop with about three kilograms of chicken gizzards instead of the delicious pork sausage I was eyeballing.
Of course, I shouldn't blame the ex-pat morons who teach English. It could very well have been something worse, like a Hungarian moron who taught her. Apparently, many Hungarians choose to learn English by preparing for state language exams which, along with a mind-boggling bureaucracy and café service that ranges from indifferent to hostile, are a hangover from the bad old days of communism. What this means is that native Hungarian teachers of English teach a state-sponsored version of the language, and only that version. This language in no way resembles English as it is spoken anywhere in the world.
Imagine a disturbing mix of Victorian, Elizabethan, and King James type biblical English run through a megacomputer that examines every potential grammatical structure and picks the most stilted, uneven, and complicated one to express what is usually a quite simple idea, peppering the output with incomprehensible arcane phrases and illogical metaphors, and ultimately creating unbearable run-on sentences much like the one you are reading now which ahem I am of course writing in this manner only to serve as an example since I am fully aware that it is not only bad form but more than a little annoying and I would never write anything so gawdawful horrendous unless I was able to be smug and ironic about it as a way to cover my inability to express myself clearly.
Where was I? Oh yeah, pork lard. This whole thing with the lady in the Butcher shop is getting out of hand. I haven't been laid in weeks and I'm afraid to take my bicycle out in the rain. I never get my order straight since I can't figure out what a taught-English-by-a-Hungarian person is saying. Maybe tomorrow I'll get my neighbour to come along with me, tell him what I want, and he can order in English for me.